Rumor: Apple to start production of Thunderbolt-equipped MacBook Air notebooks in May

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Date: Monday, April 25th, 2011, 03:05
Category: MacBook Air, Rumor

Apple next month will reportedly begin manufacturing the first updates to its rejuvenated MacBook Air line as the company looks to maintain the impressive sales momentum generated by the ultra-thin notebooks and limit the market opportunity for would-be competitors hoping to wedge their foot in the door.

Per AppleInsider, sales of the aggressively-priced 11.6- and 13.3-inch MacBook Airs got off to a hot start following their introduction last October, with Apple assembling roughly 1 million units within their first quarter of availability. During those three months, consumers reportedly chose the new MacBook Airs at a one-to-two ratio to the company’s more established MacBook Pro offerings, making for one of the company’s most successful Mac product launches ever.

However, shipments of the Airs declined 51% sequentially during the first calendar quarter of 2011 — including a 40% month-over-month decline in February — as Apple introduced new MacBook Pros that caught consumers’ eyes, according to Concord Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who has proven sources within the Cupertino-based company’s Far Eastern supply chain.

Kuo stated that his latest round of checks with suppliers and system builders in the region reveals that MacBook Air shipments are set to rebound during the current calendar quarter, fueled by an upgrade to Intel’s latest Sandy Bridge microprocessors, integrated Intel graphics, and the expected adoption of the new Thunderbolt high-speed I/O technology that made its debut on MacBook Pros earlier this year.

Specifically, he said the new models will “go to mass production in late May,” which corroborates an earlier report that cited reliable sources as saying Apple would be ready to publicly announce and ship to consumers MacBook Airs with Sandy Bridge processors during following month of June.

The upgrade should help boost Apple’s overall notebook shipments between 5% to 10% sequentially for the current quarter, according to Kuo, reversing a 5% decline from the fourth quarter of 2010 to the first quarter of 2011, which he notes was still less than the 11% average decline for notebook shipments from the top 6 OEMs worldwide during the same period.

In moving to Intel’s 32-nanometer (nm) Sandy Bridge architecture, the mid-2011 MacBook Airs will jettison two-year-old Penryn-based 45-nm Core 2 Duo chips for the chipmakers’ new line (below) of low-voltage and ultra-low-voltage Core i5 and Core i7 chips, which sport between 3MB and 4MB of Smart Cache and support a theoretical maximum of 8GB of internal system memory.

Should Apple follow its current trend of using ultra-low-variants for the 11.6-inch MacBook Air and low-voltage ones for the 13.3-inch models, consumers can expect to see new 11.6-inch MacBook Airs sporting 1.4GHz to 1.6GHz Core i5 and Core i7 chips and 13.3-inch MacBook Airs with 2.10 and 2.30GHz Core i7 processors.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Newer MacBook Air notebooks arriving with faster Blade solid-state drives

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Date: Monday, April 18th, 2011, 04:27
Category: MacBook Air, News

You may be getting a bit more than you paid for with some of the latest MacBook Air notebook units.

Per AnandTech, Apple eventually included a commercially available Toshiba Blade X-gale solid state drive module, model TS128C with the notebook.

Reports have surfaced showing MacBook Airs equipped with a second, even faster SSD with a SM128C part number — the “SM” hinting at its presumed Samsung manufacturing origins. Samsung’s SSD manages up to 260MBps read and 210MBps write speeds compared to Toshiba’s 210MBps read and 185MBps write performance. While it’s hardly unusual for Apple to multi-source components, aa recent decision to source parts from Korea’s Samsung would have been a smart move to keep just-in-time supply lines fully stocked following the spate of disasters in Toshiba’s home country of Japan. Unfortunately, there doesn’t appear to be any way of confirming which SSD you’re about to purchase without cracking open the retail box and running the OS X System Profiler…

To sum it up, you might get a bit luckier than you expected when snagging the current MacBook Air, it’s just a matter of chance.

Recent support note indicates that 2011 MacBook Air, Pro units will only support Windows 7 under Boot Camp

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Date: Monday, February 28th, 2011, 06:50
Category: MacBook Pro, News

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Per a recent Apple support note released Friday, the company’s new MacBook Pro models and the recently refreshed MacBook Air won’t support Windows XP and Windows Vista.

Note: Windows XP and Vista drivers are not supplied for these computers and are not supported.

According to the Apple Core, the note states that Book Camp will support 32- and 64-bit versions of Windows 7 Home Premium, Windows 7 Professional, or Windows 7 Ultimate. If you’re running Window XP or Vista on an older Mac and are moving up to one the new notebooks, then you will have to put a Windows upgrade into your budget.

Window 7 running on Boot Camp requires:

-An optical drive (MacBook Air computers require an external optical disc drive to install Windows 7).

-A blank CD or USB storage device to contain the Windows Drivers created by the Boot Camp Assistant.

-For 32-bit versions of Windows, at least 16 GB of free space.

-For 64-bit versions of Windows, at least 20 GB of free space.

-Boot Camp Assistant, which is pre-installed in /Applications/Utilities/

-An authentic, 32-bit or 64-bit Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium, Professional, or Ultimate disc.

Stay tuned for additional details and if you have a new early 2011 MacBook Pro notebook and have had any experience with Boot Camp, please let us know in the comments.

Rare Apple customer survey sparks hopes for 3G in next-gen MacBook Air

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Date: Tuesday, February 15th, 2011, 05:06
Category: MacBook Air, News

This could be interesting.

Apple, which typically relies on its own in-house research as opposed to customer feedback, began reaching out to select MacBook Air owners this week in a new survey that could help define future versions of the diminutive notebook, posing questions on 3G, data syncing, I/O usage, and the desire for models with more capable computing power.

Per AppleInsider, the wide-ranging survey touches on a number of issues, including the use of USB ports and external disc drives, Web-based file storage and syncing, and use of certain function keys on the keyboard. It also includes a number of queries related to wireless 3G data connectivity, suggesting Apple could be exploring integrated cellular radios in future notebooks.

Official Apple customer surveys on products are not unheard of, though they are rare. The last survey AppleInsider can recall was conducted back in February 2009 to help shape the future of the Apple TV, and that was related to the company’s self-proclaimed “hobby” that was a work-in-progress.

In addition to future MacBook Air models, the new survey could offer a glimpse into Apple’s plans for the MacBook Pro line of notebooks. When the new MacBook Air was released last October, Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs said the thin-and-light computer is “the first of a new generation of notebooks.”

Interestingly, the survey asks users whether they have connected their MacBook Air to a 3G network, how often they do so, where they connect to 3G, what type of device they use to connect to a 3G network (MiFi, USB device, or tethering with a cell phone).

Though the redesigned MacBook Air launched in late 2010, rumors of its successor have already begun to surface. Last week, it was said that Apple allegedly plans to upgrade its line of thin-and-light notebooks to Intel’s latest-generation Sandy Bridge processors this June. No claims were made about 3G connectivity.

Rumors of a 3G-capable Mac have persisted for years, but the company does not yet sell a notebook with an integrated cellular data radio. Apple even sought to hire a 3G expert for its Mac team in 2009, fueling those rumors that the functionality would be added to a future MacBook.

So, it’s hard to say how much attention to pay to this, but it is sort of interesting and could lead to something cool. If you’ve seen this survey on your end, please let us know in the comments.

Rumor: Apple looking to place Sandy Bridge processor in MacBook Air line this June

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Date: Saturday, February 12th, 2011, 06:22
Category: MacBook Air, Rumor

If you’re hankering for an upgraded processor in your MacBook Air, just wait a bit.

Per CNET, Apple is looking to replace the Core 2 Duo chip found in the current MacBook Air, a processor that is two generations behind Intel’s recently released Sandy Bridge processors. The MacBook Air was updated with a new, thinner design, flash memory drive, and an 11.6-inch model was added to the mix in an update released last fall.

In December, CNET claimed that future MacBooks from Apple with Sandy Bridge processor would not use Nvidia graphics processors in at least some models 13 inches and under. It is rumored that the smaller models will switch to Sandy Bridge-only integrated graphics, while Apple’s larger, higher-end MacBooks with screen sizes of 15 and 17 inches will allegedly rely on GPUs from AMD.

Intel began its roll-out of the Sandy Bridge next-generation processors in January, but the company quickly discovered an error in the chipset that accompanies the processor. That forced Intel to halt production of Sandy Bridge processors while it works on a fix for the 6 Series chipset code-named Cougar Point.

The error affected both desktop and mobile chips, leading to concerns that the issue could have an impact on Apple’s anticipated MacBook Pro refresh. Apple last updated its MacBook Pro notebooks in April of 2010, meaning an update for those products is likely to precede the alleged June refresh for the MacBook Air.

Intel announced this week that it has resumed shipment of chipsets for systems not affected by the Cougar Point design issue, which can lead to poor performance of devices connected to certain SATA ports. The chipmaker also said that it will meet its deadline to begin shipping dual-core Sandy Bridge hips on their previously announced launch date of February 20th.

Users report bugs in iChat video recording on current-gen MacBook Air notebooks

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Date: Monday, January 31st, 2011, 06:16
Category: MacBook Air, News

You love your new MacBook Air.

You would have asked it to prom if it had been around back then.

And it might not be able to record video chats despite having the hardware to do so.

According to MacFixIt, a reader wrote to state has not been able to record video chats in iChat on his new MacBook Air notebook. While video chats work fine, for some reason the “Record Chat” option in the “Video” menu does not work and the program will not allow video chats to be recorded. This is in contrast to both prior MacBook Air models, all other Mac systems that support video chatting.

MacFixIt reader “Joseph” writes:
“I’ve just discovered that the new MacBook Air, unlike every other current-vintage Apple laptop and desktop, is unable to record a video iChat. My local Apple Store tells me that the problem lies within the hardware itself. Can anyone tell me more specifically what that problem is, and whether there might be any workarounds?”

In the midst of diagnosing the problem, the article suggests creating a new user account on the system to test iChat with and see if any user-related settings were contributing to the problem.

On systems that support recording, a green check will appear. On the MacBook Air systems experiencing this problem an “Insufficient CPU” error will be shown.

Apparently other users have reported experiencing this problem, and in a call to AppleCare, one reader was told it is caused by the latest model of MacBook Air having a hardware incompatibility with iChat that prevents video chats from being recorded. To see this, if you go to the “Video” menu and choose “Connection Doctor,” select “Capabilities” from the drop-down menu and the “Record video chat” option will show “Insufficient CPU” instead of a green check.

Some MacBook Air systems that are experiencing this problem have been able to record video when running Mac OS X 10.5.x, indicating this issue may be with the previous 2009 models that shipped with Mac OS X 10.5 in addition to the 2010 models that shipped with Mac OS X 10.6.

The hardware in the latest MacBook Air should be fully capable of recording video chats.

Therefore, this is likely a bug in iChat that is preventing this feature from working. It appears Apple uses a specific feature of certain CPUs in iChat’s recording feature, and this feature is either not present in the CPUs used in the latest MacBook Air systems, or it has been disabled in firmware or by how the CPU interfaces with the other hardware changes in the latest MacBook Air systems.

Meanwhile if you are affected by this issue, one workaround that’s been located is to use QuickTime Player’s video chatting capabilities. To do this, start up a video chatting session and launch QuickTime Player. Then start a screen recording session, switch to iChat, and set the video to be full screen. This will record the screen and your audio input which you should then be able to import into iMovie or any other editing software.

If you’ve seen this issue on your end, please let us know.

Apple releases MacBook Air Software Update 2.0, iDVD 7.1.1 updates

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Date: Wednesday, January 19th, 2011, 04:14
Category: MacBook Air, News, Software

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As a way of capping off news that the company had turned over a US$6 billion quarterly profit (i.e., mucho dinero), Apple released a pair of software updates for owners of the latest-generation MacBook Air and iLife ’11.

Per Macworld UK, the company released MacBook Air Software Update 2.0, a small update (less than a 1MB download) that tackles a reported bug in which the unit is unable to go to sleep.

The company also released iDVD 7.1.1, a 34MB update that improves stability and brings compatibility for sending slideshows from iPhoto ’11 to iDVD.

Though this update targets an issue relating to iPhoto ’11, Apple recommends it for all users of iDVD 7, which was bundled with iLife ’09 and iLife ’08.

Both updates are available via the support pages, but they should also be waiting in Software Update.

If you’ve tried either update and have any feedback to offer, please let us know.

QuickerTek releases Apple Juicz solar charger for MacBook Air notebooks

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Date: Tuesday, January 4th, 2011, 05:23
Category: Accessory, MacBook Air

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Ok, this smacks of the spiffy.

Recently, accessory maker QuickerTek updated its Apple Juicz line of solar power chargers, releasing a flexible photoelectric tarp which can be laid out upon or staked to the ground to absorb sunlight. The 27-watt model covers 41.”5 x 30.5″, and recharges a MacBook Air in 12 hours; the 55-watt version is 59″ x 43″, and does the same in six hours. Per Macworld, both models fold up to notepad size for transportation in an included case.

The Apple Juicz comes with a rebuilt MagSafe connector for use with your MacBook, a 12V car charger, and a third connector to attach other QuickerTek products such as external battery packs. The QuickerTek web site lists the Apple Juicz for the MacBook Air as a separate unit from the standard model, but also says their standard model is compatible with the Air.

The Apple Juicz retails for US$700 for the 27-watt model, and US$1200 for the 55-watt model and is currently available for order.

Composition notebook cover now available for 11″ MacBook Air notebook

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Date: Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010, 11:49
Category: Accessory, MacBook Air

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As nifty looking as the 11″ MacBook Air is, you may feel a need to jazz it up with a modification reminiscent of your school days. Per The Daily What, Beyondthetech is currently selling a skin that will transform the outer lid of your MacBook Air into a traditional mottled black and white composition notebook.

Installation instructions are available on the Beyondthetech web site and the MacBook Air skin is a free download while the custom ZAGGSkin will set you back US$60 plus shipping and taxes.

Apple releases MacBook Air EFI firmware update 2.0 for 2010 MacBook Air notebooks

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Date: Thursday, December 9th, 2010, 05:38
Category: MacBook Air, News, Software

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Late Wednesday, Apple issued a MacBook Air EMI firmware resolving an issue where the ultra-thin laptop boots or wakes to a black screen or becomes unresponsive.

Per AppleInsider, the MacBook Air EFI firmware update 2.0 is recommended for all 11″ and 13″ MacBook Air (late 2010) models and requires Mac OS X 10.6.5 to install and run. The update addresses a “rare issue” where the MacBook Air is unresponsive or displays just a black screen after booting or waking.

Apple launched the redesigned MacBook Air in October at its “Back to the Mac event.” As predicted by AppleInsider the Mac maker released an 11.6″ version of the ultra-portable notebook and abandoned mechanical hard disk drives in favor of custom solid state storage.

On the day of the revamped MacBook Air’s unveiling, Apple released a software update for the product, resolving a problem where the MacBook Air became unresponsive after waking from sleep when an external display was connected.

Shortly after the release of the MacBook Air, reports emerged that users were experiencing problems ranging from faulty logic boards to display issues. One issue, detailed on an Apple support thread, involved a flickering or frozen screen. It is not clear whether Apple’s EFI firmware update specifically addresses this issue.

Despite scattered reports of issues with the MacBook Air, the laptop has continued to sell well, especially the 11-inch model. The US$999 11.6″ MacBook Air’s ship times slipped from within 24 hours to 1-3 business days in the first week after its release.

If you’ve tried the update and noticed any major changes, please let us know.